Wellington:A battle of attrition is on cards as India and New Zealand set out to achieve different goals in the third and final cricket Test at the Basin Reserve in Wellington on Friday.
As much as India are keen to score their first series triumph here since 1967-68, the Kiwis, whose pride has been pricked at home, are equally determined to save the series and win back the support of the disenchanted local fans.
A victory here would be an icing on the 10-wicket victory India scored at Hamilton, their first in 33 years. It would also be a farewell gift to Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman, as the awesome threesome of Indian cricket will be playing the last Test match on Kiwi soil.
If Indian go on to complete their first Test series triumph on Kiwi soil in 41 years, it would be their third away from home in four years. They had beaten West Indies 1-0 in July 2006 and England 1-0 in August 2007.
Timid they may be, but the Kiwis are confident that they can turn the tables on India. Having shown rare character in the second Test at Napier, when they forced India to follow-on, they believe that they carry the momentum into this crucial game.
The Kiwis are emboldened by their record at the Basin Reserve track, where they have trounced India in four successive Tests. Though they had huffed and puffed to barely snare four Indian wicket in the second innings at Napier, they believe that they have the ammunition to bowl out the formidable Indian batting twice in this match.
Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni was surprised that there was barely any grass on the wicket.
"I am surprised that there is no grass. It would have given me a glimpse of what the wicket was like in 2002-03. It looks like a good track. But here the wind flows across the field. So there definitely will be a bit of swing for the bowlers. It would also help the spinners to drift the ball," Dhoni said.
The Indian captain insisted that India will play to win and not be content by going for a draw.
"What we have done in the Test series so far will not have much importance. Once you have the mindset of playing for a draw, you are not aggressive enough to win a Test match. The priority will be to win. We will approach the game the same way we did in the first and second Test," he explained.
Forced out of the second Test by a sore back, Dhoni wasn't willing to commit whether he would play tomorrow.
"My back has improved a lot. But we have to see how I am before the game. In a limited overs match, you know the maximum you can keep is 50 overs, but on a good, flat track in a Test you will have to be ready for 120 overs. I will have to see how I am tomorrow morning," said Dhoni.
"I am not that kind of player that the team relies on me a lot. Whether I am playing or not, will not have much impact on the team," he said.
But by the way he went about his chores at the net despite wearing a support for his back, it is likely that the 27-year-old player will be ready to lead India to another Kiwi conquest.
His opposite number Daniel Vettori too was surprised and disappointed with the surface.
"It isn't a typical Basin Reserve wicket. I have never seen it so brown. But Jeetan Patel, who plays most of his cricket here, suggests that it has good bounce," said the Kiwi captain.
Having included fast-medium bowler Tim Southee in the ranks, Vettori would have to make a tough call when he picks the eleven for the match.
"I don't know how the wicket will play. We will have to decide between Jeetan, Mills and Southee," said Vettori.
India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain), Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman, Yuvraj Singh, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Ishant Sharma, Munaf Patel, Lakshmipathy Balaji.
New Zealand: Daniel Vettori (captain), Martin Guptill, Tim McIntosh, Daniel Flynn, Ross Taylor, Jesse Ryder, Brendon McCullum, James Franklin, Kyle Mills, Chris Martin, Tim Southee, Iain O'Brien, Jeetan Patel.
Umpires: Simon Taufel, Daryl Harper.
Third umpire: Tony Hill.
Fourth umpire: B Quested.
Match Referee: Alan Hurst.
Match starts at 3.30 am (IST).